Sunday, June 25, 2006

somewhat ot: the great olive oil debacle

yesterday i had to run down in the pouring, flooding rain to chic central to have my hair done, after which i planned to acquire some olive oil.

simple, no? long-time style-oriented readers may recall that chic central's frighteningly close to whole-ladda-hype foods. many people call it "whole paycheck," but of course, marketing spin's expensive stuff, no?

some people have told me i'm too hard to whole-ladda-hype; they mean well. yeah, but the staff remains a bunch of counter-monkeys.

what they know about food or even their own products is nil, nil, nil. yesterday was an enduring example of this.

having just mortgaged my husband's great-aunt's kidney to pay for said hair styling, i looked out the window only to watch the rain increase from mere "cats and dogs" to "australian hurricane." acquiring the olive oil was suddenly going to be difficult.

now, mr. sahadi has a great store here in bklyn, but alas his variety of olive oils is not top-notch. if you just need something simple for cooking or salad dressing, yeah, you can get some colavita cheap.

but i needed not only basic olive oil, but also a wonderful, sweet ligurian oil. now, when i buy high-quality olive oil, i look for clear facts, either on the label, or in the retailer's literature.

i want to see the region and estate from which the oil comes; i want to know the olives are actually grown there, and not brought in from somewhere else and just pressed there; i want to know the exact acidity level, that it's extra-virgin 1st-cold-pressed, and preferably organic; i want to see the d.o.p. or d.o.c.; and i definitely want to know the olive variety and harvest year.

i expect to pay between US$25 and US$40 a liter for oil like this. when the label doesn't tell me all this, i look to the retailer to offer flyers.

faced with the storm, i agonized and finally surrendered to laziness. i walked around the corner to da whole-ladda-hype to check out their oil.

ok, i go down into the basement there and i see about 1 bookcase worth of olive oils on display. not much.

i begin assiduously to read the labels, just skipping the greek, spanish, moroccan, and portuguese oils. remember, i'm seeking ligurian, from the italian riviera.

after about 5 minutes, i see the only label that says ligurian is a truffle-flavored thing from da medici. but there's none of the quality info on that bottle i need.

so i seek a wandering staff person, an aisle monkey. he's handsome, with great diction, and clearly still unsuccessfully auditioning for those soap-opera parts. i ask him about the olive oil.

he has no clue. i politely send him to fetch a manager. who cannot be found. no one in the building knows anything about their products or olive oil generally.

"i'm sorry," soap-opera wanna-be says sheepishly, "i guess olive oil isn't really our strong point." too true: over-priced fake vegetarian junk food is.

i'm in mall-hattan and the rain continues to howl. no choice for me but to trek across 14th street (gasp! i brought my passport) to the west side and up to my beloved fairway on the upper west side.

i rocket up to 72nd on the 3 train. fairway is packed and familiar, the fantastic sawdust strewn all about.

there they have 110 varieties of olive oil and a tasting bar with a display of their own custom oils. yes!!!

above the tasting bar is excellent signage describing olive oils, what to look for, important regions, just wonderful info. i begin searching thru the italian bottles.

after 20 minutes -- since the olive oil section behind the bar is dimly lit and the oils aren't well-sorted by region, i have to inspect just about every single bottle -- i don't see anything that says liguria, even tho' above excellent signage discusses it.

but! fairway has famously wonderful customer service! i run to the front and fetch the manager. i ask my question. i receive a look as blank as i did downtown.

once again, there is no one in the store who has a clue about olive oil or their products. "did you read the sign?" the manager says. aaarrrgggh!

but i really needed olive oil, so after some tasting, i chose their australian picual as being the closest in taste to a ligurian profile. which isn't very close, the picual being originally a spanish olive, iirc.

it was US$12.99 a liter. cheap, but not the region or quality i sought. . .

i was prepared to part with a noteworthy amount of cash to get what fairway should have. is it too much to ask them to find it for me or if they were mysteriously sold-out, to be able to suggest an alternative of similar stature?

why does it remain so hard to find basic high-quality stuff like this in nyc? oh. . .dear readers, the humanity!

anyway, look for my podcast later. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:03 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 1 comments

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